Glenn here. If you had ever wondered what a pre-colonial New Zealand western may look like, Toa Fraser's The Dead Lands just may be it. The film's story of revenge taken by a Maori chieftain's son after the slaughter of his tribe and family is very typical fodder for the western genre, but with its use of indigenous languages (a language that itself has been slaughtered throughout history) mixed with local mythology and lore, the film proves an entirely unique proposition. It's only the third foreign language submission in the small island nation's history, and the first to be set before white settlement. I spoke to the director last week, just a few days before his film received the biggest haul of nominations at the New Zealand Film Awards. The Dead Lands received 14 nominations and will face stiff competition from the inspirational chess drama The Dark Horse with 13. We talked about about the festival circuit, Oscar campaigning, being the underdog, historic authenticity, costuming and more.
You have recently played at Toronto and London film festivals, and now you're a submission for the Oscar, how have these last few months of yours been taking this film around the world.
It's been amazing. We only finished the movie a few weeks before we went to Toronto and I had only seen it once in its entirety before we screened it at Toronto so it was kind of a high stakes game. We had, I think, six cast members come to Toronto and be a part of the experience, so it was a great premiere and we were very happy with the way that it was received. We were very grateful. And then to get back to London for the festival was also great. We had a great big group of Maori come down to the show and stand proudly at the side of the stage without telling us they were coming. They all had a great time. And then back to New Zealand for the premiere there, so it's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I am very proud of the movie and love talking about it. Good times.
Have you by any chance been given any education on campaigning techniques when it comes to the Oscar? Is it a big deal in New Zealand or do you take it stride?
We are the Cool Runnings of the foreign language race [laughs]. You know, I think we're only the third ever from New Zealand…
Yeah, it is, after The Orator (2011) and White Lies (2013).
Yeah, and we're up against some formidable and very established industries that make movies in languages other than English. So, we under no pretense we have… we're the underdog in this game, but in terms of strategy? No. I understand there are very strict rules and so I'm anxious not to suck up. We're from New Zealand, we're very play by the rules types.
More on Peter O'Toole, costumes, and action choreograhy after the jump...